black hat

Fear versus Caution

Is fear crippling your business?

Fear is a primal emotion associated with a low level of consciousness. Some people think fear is an important part of our survival. It’s not. Caution is what’s important. Caution and fear are not the same. We survive in spite of fear, not because of it.

Fear shuts down our executive functions—our ability to think and make decisions. Fear causes paralysis, kills creativity, and limits our growth.

People who operate from fear are unhappy. Businesses that operate from fear may survive, but they never thrive.

Caution means that you’re aware of potential pitfalls and take precautions when necessary. Caution keeps us alert. Caution doesn’t tangle us up in a web of emotions like fear does. Caution doesn’t hinder our ability to stay relaxed and focused. We can be cautious and still think and act with reason and accountability.

Fear can be pervasive within any person or business. When fear becomes our default position to act, think, talk, and make decisions, we are debilitated.

Caution is used only when needed, like after a fruitful brainstorm where many ideas are created. Caution helps Black Hat your ideas, searching for the potential pitfalls you missed in the idea generation stage of the creative process. In fear, creative ideas are rarely discovered.

Let go of fear and utilize caution when appropriate. The benefits you’ll reap are beyond measure.

Learn to Value Ideas


Being cautious is a biologically-driven function. The animal aspect of our brain is wired for survival. As an inborn trait, it’s the human being’s default way of processing information.

Caution is important, but in excess, it leads one to being judgmental and critical of everything. People dominated by this perspective can be negative, life draining and difficult to be around. Dominantly cautious people are also called “dream stompers” as they are quick to point out what’s wrong with other people’s ideas and dreams.

Caution is a useful function in business because it can help you strengthen your ideas and avoid making critical errors. The opposite of caution—the ability to value an idea—is also of great value, but a much less developed ability in most people.

Developer of the Six Thinking Hats Edward de Bono explains, “We need to develop ‘value sensitivity.’ That means being as sensitive to value as we already are sensitive to danger. I have sat in on many creative meetings where excellent ideas have been generated. Unfortunately, the people present do not see the value in their own ideas. It is a waste of time setting out to be creative if you are not going to recognize a good idea.”

The perspective that values ideas, de Bono calls Yellow Hat. Whereas cautionary thinking (Black Hat) comes natural to most, Yellow Hat’s value sensitivity needs to be learned and cultivated.

Start by suspending judgment when an idea is put forth. Evaluate the idea from different perspectives, looking for potential benefits and ways of putting the idea into practice. Invest time looking for positive aspects of an idea instead of just being critical.

To criticize an idea you have to ask, What’s wrong with this? In wearing a Yellow Hat, ask, What value is there in this idea? What benefits and merits does this idea hold?

Be receptive to the positive aspects of your ideas and those of your team members. Value sensitivity helps you make new alchemical connections and unearth more novel, quality ideas.